“Untitled image of un-dyed Easter eggs, always in abundance at Lauren’s farm,” ©2021, Lauren Berley Studio
A few times in life, and even more if we’re living consciously, we can sense a tailwind accelerating us toward our vision. Like stepping on a conveyor belt, we catch on to the trajectory that aligns us to our most precious visions/yearnings/creations.
Such is the case with my little farm, locked fifteen years in the vision stage, that showed up in my now reality at the very same time that Covid-19 swept around our planet like wildfire. A fifteen-year dream, manifest in America’s rural South, is all kinds of wild, fun, mystery, work, injury, reward, laughter, some tears… wonderful! The urging of concerned people for me to stay home was energy wasted, for I’ve been waiting my entire life for a reason to do so.
It’s only in the past two years that I have been curating everything in my existence to reflect this vision of a farm/studio/retreat space, a vision I intended in 2005 at a Master Reiki Retreat in New York’s Catskill Mountains. This curation process was meant to be playful, joyous, light-hearted intention-setting. My thoughts were that in ten to fifteen years, Denver real estate would deliver me a handsome sum and it would be worth my while to sell, or whenever I’m ready. But not for quite a while. I had a life in Denver. A lovely one.
Little did I know that by the action of curating for my future, I was actually bringing the future into the Now.
My Denver house was in a suburb between Metro Denver and Boulder, with Flatiron views and open space with a public lake. Beyond this recreational oasis in an exponentially-growing hybrid of urban and suburban sprawl, was a little horse stable. The little horse stable that could, held on tightly while bulldozers and semis erected McNeighborhoods in all directions. Regardless, leasing a little Arabian/Appaloosa senior mare re-opened my heart to the foremost love of my childhood, horses. In hindsight, I don’t fully understand how the power of my relationship with horses was buried so deeply that the connection was lost until midlife. But then again, I’m still learning just how fragile our gifts are as children, how little it really takes to fracture and send split-off pieces of our souls safely into hiding. A little acknowledgement of the blind spot and some healing around it, and I was off to the races!
Horses, horses, horses… I started photographing them at local events, from which Denver has MANY to choose. The National Western Stock Show was a good launching point, the place where my camera crossed paths with the most breathtaking draft horses. Three full days of photographing brought an epic high, a rush from the power of great heritage beasts. And the promise to myself for a percheron some day. And a mule. And a BLM mustang.
Fascinating as the regal, herculean powerhouses are, the Amish families that raise and train them are completely mesmerizing. For a chance to move around freely in the sunlight, a found a large Amish group gathered at the Harley D. Troyer Auctions Draft Horse, Mule and Equipment Sale.
Language lends only a lukewarm conveyance, but if I’m to string something together in summary, it’s certain to exalt the palpable purity of living simply. It was a powerful wave, the unveiling of yet another hidden truth: that living simply from the land is all my soul yearns for.
“Untitled image depicting the simple life of the Amish farmer,” ©2019, Lauren Berley Studio
I needed souvenirs in addition to the thousands of photographs I made. Leather needed to come home with me, in the form of a 17.5″ endurance saddle for a draft horse. It looks like a Chesterfield sofa, and the horse I will have under it one day will feel like one too. And I bid on the to-die-for wood and steel super-sized wagon wheel for my front yard. Oh, and it was only ten dollars for that entire box of English girths. And who remembers how few dollars it was for the contractor-bag full of bright and immaculate saddle pads? And buckets. And chicken feeders. By the end of Sunday, all of it was mine. For what? I don’t know. I just know I was happier than a pig in mud with this stuff I might never need. I couldn’t wait to prop my giant saddle onto a sawhorse in my office and let the broken-in leather perfume my workspace. And fight my way around a giant canvas in my tiny studio, to make a portrait of the draft horse I want, some day in the simpler life vision.
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”-Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Be careful what you wish for. We will certainly get it, but most often not without a bumpy ride to wake us up first! Otherwise, we might never tune in and heed the call. It seems that yearning for a simpler time, although a pervasive theme running in the background, was kicked into high gear at the Amish farm auction. My consciousness had shifted, and now the Universe was about to throw down.
It started with the stables and the fact that, almost overnight, the adjacent field went from being freedom from city life and running wild on a horse to groundbreaking with bulldozers for the latest overpriced cookie-cutter housing. The way to the lake was now through one of those neighborhoods, manicured landscaping replaced where a trail once was, certainly awkward when the horse wants to spontaneously drop some maure. I tried new directions and ways to explore on my horse, but all roads led to the same reality: the time of ease and expanse has passed in this area, and there was no way to pretend it wasn’t so.
Next went my income. It ceased. Dried up. Halted. The investment dividends I had lived comfortably on for ten years went on a hard freeze, without notice, and without a Plan B. I struggled as a server to make ends meet, but they didn’t even come close. Then came the period as a Lyft driver, during which I was rear-ended, had to replace the brakes, and get new tires, then commercial driving insurance… which consumed all my profit before the first ride even took place. Within only a few months, I was in dire straits, and even faced losing my house!
I flew to NW Arkansas to visit my Mom for the first time since she’d moved away, and fell in love with the landscape. Rolling hills dotted with crops and cattle nested no shortage of classic vintage farmhouses. Lush trees swayed in the breeze, and a simple easy feeling lingered in the damp air.
The long and short of it is that I never would have looked for a farm on that visit to my Mom, had I not been facing devastation in Denver. In fact, the idea of losing my home and leaving my friends in Denver was so excruciating, the only buffer was to look at farms as an alternative. I noticed the joy of farm-browsing was shining through the the fog of anguish I had arrived with, and I moved from browsing into actual shopping quite seamlessly. I found a perfect little five-acre hilly spot in the woods, with safe corrals, pastures and sheds for the animals. A livable fixer-upper with a giant studio space to make art and teach, and enough land to develop the retreat center I’ve always wanted. And garden. And raise a gaggle of ducks. And chickens. And bring my horse from Colorado, since her owner knew she was in loving hands.
The Denver house sold in two days. There was a bidding war that fetched me a sale far above what I was asking, and whose closing profit carried the cost of the move, a groovy vintage horse trailer from Craigslist, and months of living through a pandemic that exploded in Denver right as we were pulling out of there in a blizzard, trailer in tow.
Which brings me back to the Peter Senge/Creative Tension post. If you’re not familiar with this blog post from the archives, you might want to check it out by clicking here. This anecdote on the power set forth by curating for the future demonstrates the process of creative tension in 3D.
Curating for the future isn’t something I’d set out to do, literally, in the interest of bringing my vision closer to the tactile. In fact, it has typically been a coping device in times of change, when I can hardly contain the excitement and need a little project move me closer to the vision, even after the vision has landed. There is always that waiting period when holding the vision is still important, when a plan could still abort… escrow, etc.
During the escrow period for the farm, I was bouncing off the walls in Denver. I kept repeating to myself that I’d bought a farm. It felt great to say it, but it didn’t seem real. That would take a while. I dove into the internet for information on chickens, finding the selection overwhelming. How would I decide on which breeds to order? After a little poking around, I stumbled on the My Pet Chicken online store, where I was able to order chicks according to egg color, and with delivery according to scheduled hatch date. This meant that I could get this little project started, in advance, curating the eggs by color now, and have a peeping box delivered to the farm after the closing. By September, colored eggs were popping up like magical treasures all around the garden. The hens weren’t quite getting the hang of it in the nesting boxes, and gave me a daily egg hunt until the temperatures dropped. Every day when I collect the eggs from the coop, I feel a little bit of magic in the rich colors and the birds always run towards me with affection. It seems there are so many blessings in these curated, magical eggs, produced on this farm brought to me by Spirit. The birds run wild. They love me, chattering outside the studio door most days. And they love to roost in the horse shed with her.
Now you know how I unwittingly closed the gap by curating for the future, and how the practice of curation became a sacred practice of intention-setting, cultivation, and forward movement in my life. That said, I’m pretty confident you will empathize with something on the shadow side… the misery of giving a dozen beautiful multi-colored eggs to someone who sees them as little more than a free version of what was on the shopping list. Or forgets to bring them in from the car. It’s disappointing. I’m not sure why exactly, but one thing is for sure. I’ve also learned to curate the recipients of my beloved treasures.